loosey-goosey homeschool: take three

This is a random post about how homeschooling looks in the Chapman house. If homeschool isn’t your jam, feel free to carry on.

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I spend more time than I want to fretting over how atypical our school routine feels. Most of the people I talk to and blog posts I read imply a nice, structured homeschool experience, not unlike what a kid might find in a brick-and-mortar school. Our school is a lot more… well, loosey-goosey is the only phrase coming to mind. There’s very little structure and normal educational stuff takes up the smallest fraction of our day. There’s no circle time or lighting a candle or set order to anything. We just squeeze it in after lunch plus a little at breakfast if we can while everyone’s contained at the table. So I thought I’d add my voice to the long list of homeschool moms, just because I want to share what’s actually working for us in our not-so-schooly life.

I took a minute to read over the last two Octobers’ homeschool posts to get an idea how things have changed.

Year one: “I’m so excited! This is working, despite the fact that I have a newborn and one-year-old!” Eventual reality: I dropped it entirely. The curriculum I used was way too intense for me to keep up with prep and the lessons were too long to keep my 4- and 5-year-olds’ attention.

Year two: “I’m so excited! Last year didn’t actually work, but I switched curriculum and I have the highest of hopes!” Eventual reality: we did better. We did actual school several times each… month. Jenna learned to read anyway, and when we did school, they blew through the lessons, so we did a year and a half’s worth of math, almost catching up from the prior year’s slacking.

This brings us to year three: “I’m not sure I’d call myself excited, but I put washi tape on my freezer, and I think we’re actually doing this thing!”

I’m not even kidding. This Friday marks the end of the first quarter—nine weeks of school—and I think we’re gonna make it. This is the most legit I have ever felt as a homeschool mom.

Wanna see the magic?

BEHOLD.

(Even filters can’t make this Pinterest-worthy.)

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That’s the extent of my awesome new system.

Washi tape, a label maker, and a dry-erase marker. (And this is the version 2.0. Version 1 was just a dry-erase marker listing off what subjects we did each day.)

The numbers above each subject indicate how many times I’d like to hit that subject in a week. The magnet clip below is unrelated, but it holds seventeen pieces of random art I don’t want to throw away yet, but don’t have space to fully display. (I could use a few more of these.) (The clips, I mean. I have plenty of art.) Monday through Thursday are our regular days, Friday is just for catching up on things we may have missed. (You might think we would have done handwriting an extra time last Friday since we only hit it once last week. You would be mistaken.) A check indicates we did something. It might be a little, or it might be twelve math lessons because they want jelly beans, which they get at a rate of one per page… my only requirement is that we try.

Our homeschool district requires each student to set a goal for the year. When our teacher asked Katherine what her goal was, she responded with her trademark mischievous glint: “I want MORE SCREENS!”

facepalm

Thanks for that, kid. Mom of the year right here. Screens are the highlight of this child’s life.

After about half an hour of trying to get a legit education goal out of her, we settled on a somewhat complicated rewards system wherein if she got the a certain amount of school done M-Th, she’d get a show before lunch on Friday. (This is big stuff, because usually weekday screens are limited to afternoons.) If she got twice that done, she could have a whole movie.

So the checklist above is technically just Katherine’s work, but because they do it together, Jenna is pulled along, and we’re using Katherine’s drive to earn screens to keep my type-B self on track. School gets done during the babies’ nap time now, and they earn a movie at about 10 every Friday. I think they are actually getting less screen time overall, though, because school ends up eating a lot of the time I might otherwise throw screens at them. Whatever.

So there you have it. My super-official, very schooly innovations for this year. Washi tape and screen bribery.

a sheltering marriage

Things have been quiet around here lately. Facebook keeps reminding me of the last two years of Write 31 Days in which I wrote actual words on most of the days of October. But the last several months haven’t been especially bloggable.

My immediate family is fine. But outside of that, all kinds of things have been blowing up. Most of those stories aren’t mine to share, but are close enough and big enough that they’re taking up considerable portions of my mental energy. If I have any useable thoughts, they’re buried beneath layers of debris from these various bombs.

Except this: I have shelter. Both a big-S Shelter in Jesus and a small-S shelter in my marriage.

The Lord is a firm foundation and He is unchangeable and sovereign over all the things and He loves the many people involved and is working for our good and His glory.

And within that, there’s the good gift of this marriage.

When I consider “home,” I instantly picture my bed. It’s monstrous and canopied and dark. I have a memory foam mattress in this bed frame that appears to be made for a waterbed, which means every time I change the sheets, I have to dig the enormous mattress out of the frame corner by corner to make the bed. It takes fifteen minutes and a fair bit of energy.

This bed doesn’t feel like home because it’s comfortable (though it is) or because of the unsharable fun that happens there (though it does). It’s the place we fairly consistently connect each night. Before we sleep, we have a habit of holding hands for just a minute and praying for each other, our family, and some situations. It’s this moment that makes bed “home” and makes our marriage a shelter.

We both have to go out and face the chaos pretty much every day, but we can always retreat to this space where it’s him and me and a good God who cares about us and about all the things.

If you are married and both you and your spouse love Jesus, can I recommend this? It took a lot of years for this to be habit, but it was worth the false starts and the hit-and-miss. It’s not the only way we connect with each other or with Jesus, but it’s consistent and it’s the most calming way to settle and remember Whose we are.

This is the space within the mess and chaos and death where I can see God bringing beauty. It reminds me that he’s making all things beautiful—even when things look like mess, chaos, and death.

lessons from a restricted diet

Hey, everybody! I’m over at Kindred Mom today, sharing about a part of my summer. Feel free to read the whole thing here or read on for an excerpt! 

Dinner at our house has always been idyllic. Not “June Cleaver” perfect, but I’d make a simple meal, and the family would eat it—or at least try it—regardless of individual opinions about peas or soup. In general, I rotated a small number of easy-to-make meals, all of which were nutritious enough to serve but appealing enough to be eaten. On rough days, I threw spaghetti on the stove and broccoli in the microwave, and everyone was fine. I never forced anybody to finish, though they needed to eat what was on the plate before they had anything else. Dinner was low-drama. There was noise and laughter and love and tears and “she touched me!” and every other lovely, messy thing I ever imagined dinner with a big family to be, but the food part was easy.

And then I wrecked it.

With one doctor’s appointment, our simple dinner routine turned upside down.

I had some health concerns, so my doctor prescribed a super restricted diet. It was annoyingly nonstandard for me. I had about eighteen ingredients to work with at the beginning. Beets. Carrots. Kale. Chia seeds? What am I supposed to do with those?!? It would be hard, but I was willing to put in the effort for a chance to feel better.

I set myself up carefully. The day before I started, I spent hours making meals from the provided recipes and chopping vegetables to have on hand. I congratulated myself on my preparedness and perfect game plan. “I am strong. I am resilient. I am going to kick this diet’s ass!”


To keep reading (and find at least one more occurrence of the word “ass,”) click here!

when January’s goals become summer’s total nonsense

I love a new year. I don’t do the resolutions thing in general, but I like the excuse to examine the year that’s gone and think ahead to what I want for the coming one, and make some plans to move forward.

January of 2018 was no exception. If anything, I was ready to launch with even more enthusiasm than the prior years. I was doing it at the beginning of January, which seems pretty basic, except that since 2012, I’ve waited until our family vacation late in the month to do any of this stuff. We didn’t take a vacation, so I had no reason to wait. Also, I tried Powersheets for the first time, which is basically a really in-depth goal-setting workbook. It is pink and has multicolored leaves on the front and some gold embossing. So inspiring and hopeful! I was SO READY TO OWN 2018.

I set up my SMART goals (Specific! Measurable! Attainable! Something that starts with “R”! Time bound!) and got to work. (Relevant. R is Relevant. Thanks, Google.)

Then the end of February came and knocked me on my backside. My health tanked. All progress was undone. Any future goals were forgotten. I was underwater, just hoping to find my way to the surface for air.

I’ve got some medical support now, and I’m feeling a little less like I’m drowning, so I decided to take another look at my goals and the action steps I’ve supposedly been taking for more than half of a year by now.

Um… Yeah. Not so much. The one about daily time in the Bible is working out because I found a way that works really well for me. But everything else has fallen to the wayside in favor of “just make it until bedtime.”

So I have these goals, that seemed so good, so God-appointed in January. And then I have this actual life. The two don’t match at all.

So what do I do with it?

Talk to God about it at length.

This has probably been the hardest part for me- I was so sure I heard Him say I needed to work on my health [weight] this year. What I actually heard was “we’re going to focus your health this year.” Well. I guess that’s what’s been happening, but there is no way I could have imagined what that would mean in January. It makes sense that in January, “health” would have looked like the one thing that doctors have been hammering my whole life: my weight. I didn’t even think to question it. Of course the two aren’t equivalent.

Assess where I am.

I’m in survival mode with my kids still. The months of complete inability made way for some really bad habits for everyone and, while my parenting is slowly improving, there’s a long way to go.

I wanted to be intentional about connecting with Andrew, but evenings were pretty low-energy. I rarely had anything intelligent to say or energy to do anything besides read or space out online.

My health goals make the least sense. Weight loss is so far down the list right now. I’m eating weird food (I’m on an elimination diet at my doctor’s direction) and I’m still tired and all those awesome muscles I got in January and February are gone.

Figure out where I can reasonably go.

Getting the kids sorted is going to take a lot of time and a lot of self-discipline, honestly. I have some tools that I’m trying to implement, but if there’s an available quick fix, I don’t know what it would be. But I have some goals for each of the kids and I’ll keep plodding.

Connecting with my husband is simple enough. We’re good friends; we just need to do stuff together. We busted out some games the other night, and it was good for my soul. (Also good for my soul? Rewatching The Office with him.)

I need to learn to eat again. I need to get strong again. I need to keep rest a priority.

And now I just walk in it. These goals are boring. Not even a little sexy. But they reflect my reality now.

A boring goal that fits my life is better than a fun one that only reflects wishful thinking.


Please tell me… What were your January goals? Are you walking toward them? Do you need to pivot a bit?

Lilly Mae is two

Hey, little Lilly.

You’re a light and a joy.

I love your silly and your sweet.

I love the way you love your siblings.

I even love (though I’d never admit it) the way you hurl yourself on the carpet when you’re told “no.” It’s so funny. I’d never encourage it, because it’s not an especially healthy way to handle frustration, but for now when your words are limited? Kudos for finding a way to tell me exactly what you think about that. The carpet does understand, love.

Right now, you are saying ALL THE WORDS. Well, no. You’re saying parts of each word. Mostly the vowel parts. Mostly in a whisper. It’s endearing and nearly impossible to decipher, especially in the noise of this house. “Oooh ah” means either “shoes on” or “shoes off.” It’s anybody’s guess. “Eee uh” means either “cheetah” or “Grandpa” or perhaps “teeth brush” or “Jesus.” You could make it easier, but I can’t imagine it being any cuter.

Your scrunched-up nose smile KILLS ME DEAD. Every day. Whether I’m asking for the cheesy smile or you just give it (usually in place of words you don’t feel like saying), it makes me laugh every time.

I love your determination. And sometimes it’s a pain. But that’s okay. It’ll be good… in several years. I think. (Good heavens… you and Brian are hitting the Will Of Iron phase right together and I think it might wipe me out. We’ll find out if I’m really good at handling the spunk of you little ones from all the practice or… if I’m just really tired from the bigs.)

I am still kinda thinking you’re the last baby I’ll carry and birth, and I’m just SO aware of how fleeting all these little stages are and I’m loving them so much. Your funny, waddling toddler run looks just like a baby monkey. (In the sweetest, most endearing way.) Your little baby belly and your baby curls and your dimples and your happy squeals… they all bring me so much joy. I know they won’t stay forever, but I sure love them now.

And really? It’s okay that you don’t stay little forever. I LOVED your teeny newborn self, and she’s gone now, replaced by a two-year-old version. While I miss that squishy, floppy baby phase, I like you even more now, and I have more than 7 years of raising your siblings to remind me that you’re gonna just keep getting cooler. (And also, if we’re being honest, more of a pain. Because every stage has its challenges, too.)

Baby, you’re lovely. And you’re growing up just right. I love you to pieces. We all do. You’re the littlest baby, so you have (by plenty) the least of my one-on-one attention. But you have SO MUCH LOVE from SO MANY PEOPLE.

I can’t believe you went from this…

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©Sarah Lewis Photography

to this…

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©Sarah Lewis Photography

to this

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©Sarah Lewis Photography

so quickly.

Happy birthday, my delightful and lovely Lilly Mae.

resting and Spirit

I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months trying to decide if I should be still or move forward, letting His strength be made perfect in my weakness. I don’t mean this in a metaphorical sense… I actually can’t tell when to sleep and when to stay awake. Sometimes it’s clear: it’s Saturday afternoon and Andrew is home. There’s work to be done, but I can no longer function. Nap is an easy choice. Or: it’s 9 am and the two littles both need a bath for diaper-related reasons. The big two are fighting. I can barely function, but the choice is made for me: I push.

But what about the more questionable times? I have an afternoon where the babies are down and the girls are watching shows. There are a million things to do. The house is making me crazy with how behind I feel, and it’s cutting into my peace. I feel tired, but not completely nonfunctional. A nap is an option, but it’s not going to be high-quality on the futon with How To Train Your Dragon playing. Or I could knock out some of the things that are driving me nuts, but also potentially sap my ability to manage bedtime in a few hours.

I’ve looked at scripture. There’s no clear template to tell me when I should rest and when I should push. So I look at Jesus. He did both, but again, there isn’t a really obvious way to determine under what circumstances he did which. I don’t know when to honor God’s design of my body with its cues and when to honor the life he’s given me by living it rather than sleeping through it.

Somebody, PLEASE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

And then I remember that Somebody can.

My theology of the Holy Spirit is relatively solid, but my application has been extraordinarily weak. I come from a cessationist tradition (so “sign gifts” like prophecy and tongues were definitely not a thing) and any actual interaction with the Spirit felt suspect. While I no longer hold  that piece of  theology, I still carry a lot of “who do you think you are?” when I want to ask Jesus about day-to-day stuff.

But here’s the thing. I have to ask about it, because He didn’t spell out in scripture whether I should nap or work this afternoon. And I actually need to know, more or less constantly. Sure, I can make the call on my own (I often do), but it feels arbitrary to do so when I really could go either way. We’re talking about my use of time, and I only get so much per day. There’s never really a great surplus. My sister mentioned how nice it would be if God had included an appendix in the Bible for stuff like this: “Hey, guys! This part doesn’t have much to do with salvation, but here’s some helpful information on how to navigate areas not specifically covered in the rest of my book.”

But he didn’t give me rules. He gave me a relationship.

And isn’t that the gospel all over again? I want the law, because the law feels safe and followable. Never mind that safe can’t save… I want boxes to check. But the Law has been fulfilled (by Someone else, because it feels like I could follow it, but I would never be able to) and what I have is GOD HIMSELF. In me. And me in him.

So I’m slowly learning to make peace with this very awkward practice of asking Jesus pretty basic questions and actually expecting a response. I’m not at all good at it yet. A couple months ago, I had an intense and important conversation with a dear friend and we had precisely 90 minutes and could. not. waste. any. Throughout the conversation, I had this ongoing side dialogue with the Holy Spirit going on. “I have a thought. Should I share that? Was that You or me? You or me? You or me? You gotta tell me… You. But not yet. Okay. I’ll hold it.” It was clumsy and ridiculous, but God honored my bumbling and was glorified in that 90 minutes.

I don’t know how to do this “walking in the Spirit” thing. I don’t know how long it will be before I do. I suspect it’s one of those things that doesn’t get perfected this side of Heaven. But I do know this is the way I should be headed.

Relationship over rules, you guys. Even when rules seem easier.

what we learned Spring of 2018

Emily Freeman (possibly my favorite internet writer for the last decade) has made a practice of rounding up what she’s learned each quarter. I’ve been doing “what I learned” posts yearly for a while, but I need to make time to remember more often, so I am, and I’ll get to link up with a bunch of others who are doing the same.

 

Dry shampoo.

I know. I’m so far behind on this one. And yes, it has aluminum starch in aerosol form, which is terrifying (and who even knew that aluminum had starch?) but y’all, my hair takes for-friggin-ever to wash and condition. I don’t bother drying it- I just sleep with it wet and it’s at least almost dry by morning. If I can do that whole thing as infrequently as possible, it’s a win.

 

Rest

I told Andrew when I was pregnant with Brian that when I was done having and nursing babies, I was going to need to go somewhere and sleep for a while.

Four years later, I made it. And it was glorious. I got cheap mileage tickets to California (with a layover to see some of my people in Seattle) and rented a car and found an Airbnb in Santa Barbara. I visited a dear friend and mostly… I rested.

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I don’t say this to brag about my rad life (although it was pretty awesome). I just want to throw out there that it’s worth it. It was costly and the logistics were a pain, but it’s worth celebrating eight years of childbearing with a week of sleep, and now that I’ve been home awhile, I can say that the benefits are real and lasting. I was afraid that the rest would actually make everything worse: the shock of my regular life afterward would just push me over the edge. It did not. Reentry is no joke, but I had enough downtime to sort of evaluate what is essential in my regular life and pare down a bit so my regular life can be more restful.

Press n Seal.

For reals. I heard this mentioned in passing in an early episode of The Lazy Genius podcast, and I froze where I was standing. I was in my kitchen with orange counters overflowing with dishes and detritus and 40-year-old orange-and-gold linoleum that perpetually needs a broom, and I just stood stock still for a second or two with the realization that this was about to change. my. life. FOREVER.

It’s not just press n seal. It’s press n seal in the FRIDGE. Cover the fridge shelves in the film and when it’s time to clean the refrigerator, just pull it off and put new film down. Pro tip: if your fridge has removable shelves, it’s much easer to seal the plastic to shelves that are room temp and dry than cold and collecting condensation.

YouVersion Bible App

This, like press n seal, is old news. I’ve had this app since I had a smartphone. The new part is the audio. That’s not really new, either. Just new to me. I started listening to it in the morning before I got out of bed, but I was really prone to falling back asleep, both missing my reading and wrecking my morning.

What I’ve learned to do instead is listen at night before I sleep. I almost never zonk in the middle and it fixes my heart on Jesus as I fall asleep. The bulk of my reading currently is some crazy crap going on in 1 Samuel between Saul and David, but I find myself drifting off to sleep talking to Jesus about what is going on. (Even though I know how it ends.) I love reading, but I’ve read the Bible a lot, and I have a tendency to skim now. Listening to it (at normal speed, not 1.8x) is an unexpected way to allow the words to actually sink into my heart.

Also? I’ve spent most of the years of my life trying to have a morning “quiet time.” You know, “start your day in God’s word.” Like 90’s Christian subculture said we should. But the Hebrew day starts at sundown, and I’m learning there’s value to framing the day this way. I don’t know why it matters, but when I look at the evening as the start of tomorrow rather than the dregs of today, I feel calmer and less frantic about everything. Including my timing for scripture reading.


If you enjoy reading what I learned this spring, head over to Emily’s post– there’s links at the bottom to a whole community sharing their lessons.